The mother of an American Muslim soldier killed in Iraq pleaded with Donald Trump yesterday (Sunday) to show empathy for her grief, after he suggested that her religion kept her from speaking about her son.
The Republican presidential nominee questioned why Ghazala Khan, the mother of Captain Humayun Khan, stood silently as her husband spoke at the Democratic National Convention last week.
"She was standing there, she had nothing to say, she probably, maybe she wasn't allowed to have anything to say, you tell me," Mr Trump told ABC News.
"Donald Trump said I had nothing to say," Mrs Khan responded yesterday. "I do."
"Walking onto the convention stage, with a huge picture of my son behind me, I could hardly control myself," she wrote in The Washington Post. "What mother could? Donald Trump has children whom he loves. Does he really need to wonder why I did not speak?"
"Every day, whenever I pray, I have to pray for him, and I cry. The place that emptied will always be empty," she added. Khizr Khan, Cpt Khan's father, said Mr Trump's comments about his wife revealed "the blackness of his character, of his soul".
Facing growing outrage over his comments, Mr Trump said yesterday that he was forced to respond after Mr Khan "viciously attacked" him.
"Am I not allowed to respond? Hillary voted for the Iraq war, not me," he said.
Mr Khan gave a moving tribute to his son's sacrifice last Thursday at the convention, delivering a rebuke of Mr Trump.
"Donald Trump consistently smears the character of Muslims," he said. "He disrespects other minorities, women, judges, even his own party leadership. He vows to build walls and ban us from this country," he said.
Mr Trump speculated that the speech had been written by the Clinton campaign, and said if he could tell Mr Khan anything it would be that America is at risk of "radical Islamic terrorism".
John Kasich, Mr Trump's former rival for the Republican nomination, was one of many who criticised Mr Trump's response.
"There's only one way to talk about Gold Star parents: with honour and respect. Captain Khan is a hero. Together, we should pray for his family," he said.
Mrs Clinton raised the controversy during a campaign stop in Ohio.
"Mr Khan paid the ultimate sacrifice in his family, didn't he? And what has he heard from Donald Trump? Nothing but insults and degrading comments about Muslims," she said.
The Republican nominee also raised eyebrows yesterday for remarks he made about Russia.
Mr Trump first said Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, was "not going into Ukraine".
When pressed on the annexation of Crimea, Mr Trump said: "The people of Crimea, from what I've heard, would rather be with Russia than where they were," echoing Mr Putin's rationale but diverging significantly from current US policy.
Hillary Clinton told Fox News that Mr Trump had shown "absolute allegiance" to Russian aims, and criticised the businessman's apparent request last week for Russia to hack into her private emails.
"For Trump to both encourage that and to praise Putin despite what appears to be a deliberate effort to try to affect the election, I think, raises national security issues," she said.
While Mr Trump has seen a recent bump in the polls, a new survey from Public Policy Polling showed his favourability rating rising just 1 per cent after the conventions compared with 9 per cent for Mrs Clinton.